TIR Christmas play 2020: The Clown (year 4)

Artwork by Mark Palfreyman

TIR, unfortunately, doesn’t produce Christmas plays any more – but if we did, this would be our offering for 2020: a satirical retelling of Netflix hit series “The Crown” (season 4).

Season Year 4 begins with events delicately poised for The Clown. It’s a re-election year, but the economy is booming and the emotionally-retarded monarch and extended family, along with associated ne’er do-wells, hangers-on, sycophants, flunkies, and trust-fund brats are feeling bullish about their prospects. As scions of various bloodlines exemplifying both extreme wealth and unearned privilege, they celebrate their grotesque elevation with a song and dance number which involves them trampling on various less well-off American citizens (“We won it all” to the tune of Queen’s “I want it all”).


Into this benighted and godforsaken household comes a blonde bombshell from the UK, Lady BoJo. Lady B has made herself a Queen of Hearts by promising all kinds of fanciful lies to the British public, the undeclared price being that they must sign their future prosperity away. The Lady charms The Clown’s household with her pretentious schoolgirl Latin and sunny optimism, and wins rave reviews for her plans to tear Britain away from the EU, which The Clown regards as a strategic competitor. The mutual affection between The Clown and Lady B is celebrated in a stunning duet highlighting their shared traits of inveterate mendacity and charlatanism (“Sleazy brothers” to the tune of Phil Collins’ “Easy Lover”).


Alas, despite Lady B’s visions of deregulation, zero oversight, cronyism, rabble-rousing, and inefficiency, the relationship with the royal household falters when she finds herself unable to choke down the chlorine-washed chicken and GM beef provided by The Clown’s business friends. The relationship freezes over after that, and the charismatic Lady B is left mostly to her own devices, partly because she’s sacked half of the Civil Service. When her faithful goblin Cummingstiltskin has one eye test too many, he too departs, and Lady B is left to mediate on the vicissitudes of fortune (“I can’t stop fumbling” to the tune of Shirley Bassey’s “I who have nothing”).


This, however, is the least of The Clown’s concerns. A mysterious virus is killing thousands of people, and The Clown’s attempts to ignore it backfire badly when the virus…keeps on killing thousands of people. The plight of the people is signalled by a full chorus number showing various vignettes of pandemic and lockdown life (“That’s why I’m singing the pandemic blues” to the tune of Elton John’s “And I guess that’s why they call it the blues”).

The Clown’s ire is worsened by the realisation that the only people who can help are the scientists who have been relentlessly attacked for their adherence to facts, data, environmental protection, and coherent sentence structure. Luckily, Jareth the Goblin King, who is married to one of The Clown’s daughters, agrees to take on oversight of the pandemic response and promptly sidelines all significant scientific voices in the Administration. In a homage to “Reservoir Dogs”, Jareth dances around the lead scientist on the Coronavirus Task Force, who has been gagged and tied to a chair, while graphically cutting off the scientist’s media connection (“Sticking a muzzle on you” to the tune of Stealer Wheels “Stuck in the Middle with You”).


Meanwhile, The Clown decides to divert attention from the awful bodycount being wreaked by the virus by trying to provoke a race war (we really wish this was dramatic hyperbole, but it’s not really). Unconvinced that the various racist groups endorsing him are working hard enough, The Clown attempts to summon Satan, Lord of Darkness by first gassing peaceful protesters and then brandishing a Bible upside-down on the steps of a church. Unfortunately, Satan can spot a loser when he sees one and elects not to manifest. The dry ice and lightshow accompanying this climax marks the end of the first half of the play and the stage fades to black, with The Clown’s leering orange face remaining in a spotlight until the last instant before blackout.


The shorter second half begins in the aftermath of the election, which The Clown has lost by every metric measurable, but refuses to concede. Despite absolutely no evidence of impropriety at the ballot box, The Clown continues to allege voter fraud on a massive scale (“I’ve seen them vote five hundred times” to the tune of The Proclaimers “I’m gonna be (500 miles)”). The Clown’s political lackeys remain publicly loyal, but there are ominous signs everywhere.

Things come to a head when The Clown’s chief legal advisor holds a press conference in a location framed by a sex shop and a crematorium (once again, real life transcends satire), in an attempt to produce an Infinite Improbability Event which will shift reality into a dimension where The Clown won. Once again, the ritual comes up just short when the advisor forgets to shove his hands into his underpants (he remembers to do this later on in a hotel with Borat’s daughter, but by then it’s too late). With support haemorrhaging away, The Clown and associated underlings begin to see the beginning of the end.


As Christmas nears, The Clown and family gather once more. The mood is sombre, but celebratory in some ways. The family and enablers continue to rush through various environmentally damaging and internationally compromising measures, warming their hands in front of a regulatory bonfire (“Put another law on the fire” to the tune of Tompall Glaser’s “Put another log on the fire”), while they fondly reminisce on the fortunes they and their friends have made during their brief time in the sun. With the sounds of protesters chanting in the background, the lights dim once more as The Clown’s face is illuminated by the flickering yellow and orange light of the burning documents, staring fixedly and dementedly into the middle distance.

Best wishes for the festive season and the New Year to all our readers!

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